Athens, Ga. – The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia raised $168,000 on Jan. 31 as part of its biennial gala, “An Elegant Salute to Georgia.” It was the 14th edition of the event, organized by the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, the museum’s membership program.
Focusing on the museum’s distinction as the official state museum of art and celebrating Georgia’s rich heritage of art, agriculture and natural beauty, the event was co-chaired by David Matheny and Michael Montesani. The museum relies on private donations to fund educational programming and exhibitions, as well as to keep admission free, and Elegant Salute is vital to that process. The Friends set a goal of raising $155,000 in ticket sales and cash sponsorships this year but exceeded that ambitious goal by $13,000.
“I am thrilled that the Friends met and exceeded our fundraising goal for the event,” said Michele Turner, the museum’s director of membership. “Our boards and supporters played an integral role in that success. We are lucky to have the local, statewide, regional and even national support that enables us to assist with the museum’s exhibitions and educational programming.”
This year’s committee chairs were Airee Edwards and Everett Long (after-party), Maggie Hancock (décor), Lucy Allen (flowers), Kate Lynch (dinner), Greg Barnard and Gloria Ricks-Taylor (fundraising), Lori Scott (logistics), Cheri Leavy (publicity) and Devereux Burch and Amburn Power (social). Together, they planned an evening that began with a dramatic entrance into the tented Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden, with white-draped columns, a chandelier and floral arrangements inspired by Georgia’s landscape and wildlife.
Guests proceeded into the M. Smith Griffith Grand Hall for dinner catered by Epting Events featuring Georgia products including pecans and peaches. After dinner, guests returned to the garden to witness a change of décor for dessert and dancing. DJs Alfredo and Zdog provided music for this after-party, themed “Get Your Pucci On” in honor of the museum’s “Emilio Pucci in America” exhibition. Edwards and Long put together a fashion parade with models dressed in Pucci’s creations and narrated by Mary Koon, guest curator of the exhibition. Many guests also wore Pucci-themed attire.
Museum director William Underwood Eiland recognized M. Smith Griffith, informally known as “Smitty,” as honorary chair. Griffith founded the event nearly 30 years ago, in 1986, as a way to attract donations and attention to the museum, a cause that has been dear to her heart since before 1973, when she co-founded the Friends.
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The Georgia Council for the Arts also receives support from its partner agency, the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton St., University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-1502. For more information, including hours, see georgiamuseum.org or call 706-542-4662.